“I just saw how hard Brendan Shanahan was.”
This was one of the photos from inside the Maple Leafs’ home Friday night, hours after the team’s president walked away from his five-year-old general manager, Kyle Dupas, and filed a report. Which makes for scary detail, day by day, hour by hour almost. About the failure of negotiations on the extension of the contract in a short press conference.
Less than a week after the Florida Panther Leafs were eliminated in the NHL playoffs, the front office was nearly dismantled, first with Dubas’ decision and then with the news that the Marlies’ three head coaches had been fired and that Special Assistant to General Manager Jason Spieza had resigned.
It is also clear that more layoffs and resignations are coming in the near future.
Maybe a lot of them.
As previously reported after the Leafs’ elimination, Shanahan and Dupas had been at odds for some time. On Friday, more details emerged on that front. Several sources close to the team said Shanahan delayed trades Dubas wanted to make at key times in recent seasons, frustrating parts of the management group. Shanahan sometimes dictated certain moves he wanted to do that Dupas wouldn’t accept.
The leader, depending on his place in the hierarchy, is usually the winner in these battles. And in some cases, unmade moves could have improved the Leafs’ ability to advance further into the playoffs.
Some of those controversies likely contributed to the chaos Monday, when Dubas delivered an emotionally charged and uncharacteristically charged press conference at the end of the season in which he refused to commit to returning to GM.
Shanahan was so intrigued by this press conference that he deviated from the script of the conversations he had so far. He spent months furloughing Dubas from the board of directors of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, eventually gaining approval to negotiate a long-awaited contract extension, which some members of the Trident ownership group had denied the previous year.
However, the rift in the Leafs’ front office and the relationship between the two men was always a factor, and it is believed that Dupas’ desire for more independence from Shanahan was one of the innumerable reasons for how things ultimately turned out.
Now those who remain in the organization take sides. Some on Dobas’ side, like Spezia, are preparing to leave. Others hope to ascend to the New World Order.
In short, it’s kind of a mess.
However, the other team members are simply disappointed that the successful nine-year partnership between Shanahan and Dupas quickly and publicly fell apart.
Everyone knew that all was not well. But few of them expected him to collapse like that just before the finish line.
“It’s really tough for everyone,” a team source said. “I am not satisfied with everything today. It should have ended completely differently.”
It should have ended, they say, with Dubas remaining as the Leafs’ general manager.
It wouldn’t be a point of discussion in NHL circles for years.
Only the board members know for sure, but one of the things discussed at Dubas’ first meeting about the status of his contract and Shanahan’s ownership last Sunday was the future of the company, head coach Sheldon Cave.
Dubas may have been told that Keefe will (or should) be a casualty this season, as everyone agreed he needed a big change.
The organization also believes players have become too relaxed, which could fuel any organizational decisions made this summer. Part of what was at issue with the board was whether Dubas was ready to make those difficult decisions, such as firing a coach he was very close to and trading players he had supported since joining the league seven seasons ago.
Was that part of what happened in Dubas that was off script on Monday? maybe. He declined to comment when contacted the athlete Friday, but others in the organization believe what happened on Sunday took a toll on him, especially in the 48 hours after another early playoff exit.
The ineffectual negotiations that unfolded over the next three days eventually led to Shanahan’s decision to move on.
“I felt differently. I felt like the long-term future of the Maple Leafs might change,” Shanahan said Friday afternoon.
With Dubas now gone, Keefe will almost certainly be fired once a new general manager is appointed in his place, even though he has a year remaining on his contract.
It is also unlikely that the beloved Brandon Bridham will get the GM job because it is very different from his current experience and responsibilities.
Although Pridham remains in an extra role, many of Dupas’ other lieutenants appear to be in danger. AGMs Ryan Hardy, Daryl Metcalfe, and Hayley Wickenheiser were close to Dupas and relatively inexperienced in the front office when they were promoted to their roles in an unconventional front office that had several AGMs in various roles.
The new GM will likely opt for a more traditional structure — and bring in many of its employees.
As for who the GM could be, the favorite appears to be former Flames GM Brad Treleving, who has been the subject of behind-the-scenes rumors going back at least to March. But I’m also hearing that candidates could come in the form of an existing GM or team presidents with other teams that have clauses in their agreements that might be interested in a high-profile (and well-paying) role in Toronto.
Someone like Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who is very experienced and has won a Stanley Cup, could be a reasonable option if he is contractually able to leave St. Louis in the short window that Shanahan has to.
Regardless of the general manager’s search, the Leafs should hire someone with NHL experience for the role. Shanahan should seek advice from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league office before hiring him, as many teams do in this situation.
As for the technical staff, Joel Quenneville would be intrigued by the idea of coming to Toronto. He has yet to meet the league to secure an NHL comeback after he resigned as Panthers coach in October 2021 following the Blackhawks’ investigation into the sexual abuse of former player Kyle Beach by video coach Brad Aldrich. As such, it is unlikely that the Leafs would be willing to make such a controversial hire at this time.
But it is safe to say that he will most likely be a very experienced coach to replace Keefe.
There is a strong feeling in the organization that the team’s core players could benefit from an overhaul, including having a coach with fewer “players” and replacing a lot of the key players.
While Shanahan will need a new GM in his place to make such moves, anyone joining the Leafs in this role will likely be told more than the cosmetic changes are required.
Given the complexity of Leafs roster decisions that will age this season, getting the right GM designation will be critical. Without Dubas, the Leafs’ front office is tenuous in experienced hands, and with so many people pondering their futures, the exodus could lead to more uncertainty like hiring and free agency near the end of next month.
As for Dubas’ future, while he said on Monday that he does not expect to move quickly into a new role, the thinking in the league now is that his view could change if he receives an important offer in a role he has completed. independence. . the coming months. The situation in Ottawa, in particular, could be intriguing, with a new ownership with deep pockets and a young roster on the rise.
A front office with rival senators, including Dubas as president and Spezia and Daniel Alfredsson in supporting roles, would certainly make things interesting in the Atlantic Division.
Not that the Maple Leafs need help creating headliners at this point, given the organizational turmoil that will continue to unfold this offseason.
(Photo: Renee Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)